It was raining hard, but I smiled as I passed people on my bike. My right hand grasped the handlebar in front of me, while the left clung firmly to an umbrella that was whipped around by the wind. The bike was small and my legs were too long to make the ride fast or efficient. I traded nods and grins with strangers at a fruit stand. Waving was out of the question. I rarely wear sunglasses but I wore them then. I wondered if people realized that they were to keep moisture out of my eyes and not really a fashion display. My thoughts changed from sunglasses to my stay in Dongguan and how I'd be leaving for Nanjing the following day.
Finally, I lifted my eyes and found myself close enough now to read the characters on the overpass up ahead--Xitou. I'd be home soon. The rain stopped suddenly as I rode under a covered area. A rat stuck its head out from underneath an empty bag of chips, looked down, then looked back up and focused its gaze on me again to verify what it had just seen. That was about the same reaction I got from the man in the mechanics shop on the corner. I rode closer, so the rodent hurdled a couple bricks and dove into a hole. I tried imagining what the mechanic would have done had I approached the shop door.
My friend works as an engineer in Baisha, and I had just finished eating lunch with him and touring the factory where the fuses he designs are manufactured and tested. The assembly line fascinated me. Employees worked in harmony with the rhythm of the machines. I stepped forward with my hands on my hips and my countenance feigning authority and experience. A young-looking female tapped her uniformed co-worker on the shoulder and indicated in my direction. I lifted a fuse up to my face and rolled it around in my hand, only putting it back down after giving my nod of approval. Could my poker face convince them I was someone important? "What is this white kid in basketball shorts doing here?" I read their thoughts, and that's the closest translation. All things seem to be made in China and I wanted to witness it. Afterall, I thought as I rounded the corner and turned down a narrow alley, this is my last day in Dongguan for a while, so I might as well make it interesting. My brakes screeched as I slowed to stop. I wiped the water off my face with an already wet shirt and pushed the rusty kickstand down with my foot. Tomorrow I'd be in Nanjing.